JSA Tour: Highlights
JSA is the only portion of the DMZ, where South and North Korean soldiers stand face-to-face. You can feel the heightened tension of the most hostile area in the world.
Technically speaking, two Koreas are still at the state of war. JSA, or Panmunjeom in Korean, is the official conference area between the two parties. It has been renowned since an armistice agreement was signed there in 1953.
More than sixty years ago, the armistice was signed after the three year Korean War. It was intended to serve as a temporary ceasefire agreement, soon to be replaced by a permanent peace treaty, which has not been realized yet.
Can you imagine how long time the armistice was negotiated in the middle of the three year war? It took two years with 765 meetings. However, the signing of the armistice took only twelve minutes with no handshake, no saluting, and no ceremony. The representatives of the North Korea and the UNC (United Nations Command) were stone-faced and indignant with each other. They walked into the room from the opposite doors and withdrew using the same door respectively as soon as they signed the paperwork.
The resentfulness was just a prelude of all the shouting matches and countless fistfights at an official conference room between the representatives of two sides. Don’t you want to visit the conference row and enter the central room of the seven conference buildings? You can even step over the division line which is marked in the middle of the room.
At the UNC Guard Post Three outside of the conference room, you would find yourself surrounded by North Korea at your three sides. There you can take photos of the north mountains and villages at the nearest distance.
You will eventually pass by the focal point of the most brutal incident of JSA, which is called the “Axe Murder Incident” of 1976. Two officers of US army were axed to death under a huge popular tree. The tree had to be pruned because it was in between two UNC guard posts, blocking the line of view between the two points. The officers were carrying shot guns on their waist belts, but they did not use them to be brutally murdered with the axes for the tree trimming job. This is only one episode of the sixty year old tragedy of JSA.
Visit JSA and face in person the longest and bitter confrontation of the world history, still going on in the conference theater.
JSA Tour: Itinerary
How do you go to JSA? Only by joining a tour package run by a few tour agencies registered to UNC!
Since JSA is so hostile and closely controlled by the belligerents, it is not ready at everyone’s convenience. Some nationalities are restricted by UNC regulations. The information of all visitors including their nationalities and passport numbers must be gathered and checked at least three days before the actual tour date. Only after the roster of visitors is approved by UNC, you can get on the bus starting from Seoul.
Please be advised that the tour package is likely to sell out if you postpone your booking until the three days before the tour. There are many travelers coming to Seoul hopeful of visiting JSA, only to find they are too late to join a tour group. So, if you are going to see JSA, the first thing to do is to contact IBTS KOREA.
IBTS KOREA has operated for more than fifteen years the JSA tour service most professionally to provide you with everything you need:
- The best storytelling tour guide for JSA
- The most convenient transportation to and from the JSA (including a morning pick-up service at your hotel in Seoul)
- The perfect assistance of your preparation, not to be rejected at the gate of JSA (including your dress code defined by UNC)
Conference Room of MAC (Military Armistice Commission)
UN Guard Post Three (GP 3)
Focal Point of Axe Murder Incident
Bridge of No Return
The best quality Jinseng Center or Amethyst Factory Outlet
Hotel pick-up and transportation by air-conditioned vehicles
JSA Tour: Information
JSA is the only area where the South and North can meet together without a wall or a barbed-wire fence at disarmed/unarmed state. It is also a special district without an administrative jurisdiction for the South and North parties.
JSA is the only area that is under the jurisdiction of the U.N. Emergency Force by ROK army (around 350 personnel) and the U.S. Military (around 250 personnel) out of 155 miles within the ceasefire line.
Within the JSA; the North of the Military Demarcation Line, 20 centimeters in width, Panmoonjeom is located where the summit of South and North Korea and the military armistice conference took place.
You will feel the tense atmosphere as a cold feeling between the guarding solders.
In this, JSA is near the North, though it is in South Korea, foreign tourists need to submit their passport before the tour to book the tour unlike any other tour spots.
This is such an intricate tour location, in the case of Korean, we provide group tours that consist of over 30 slots allowing visits to take place after security clearance.
Let us take a special tour to the unusual location, JSA.
JSA Tour Point
+ A place of education where you can see the sorrow of the people they went through from the tragedy of the territorial division and the fratricidal war
+ The only tour that you can visit within this divided country, Korea, the ‘JSA’ zone.
+ You can see the North Korean army right in front of your eyes, such an exciting opportunity
+ A thrilling visit to the ‘Bridge of No return’ within JSA, you cannot return if you cross over it.
+ Visiting the actual scene of the ‘ax murder case’ inside of JSA, where this terrible and cruel brutality happened by the North Korean army.
+ An interesting expedition to the third guard-post in JSA, which is near the civilian housing of North Korea.
JSA Tour Course
The bridge is more like a symbolic bridge built back in 1998, wishing unification between two Koreas.
It was built by Hyundai Business Group of South Korea. Underneath the bridge you can see a river which is called Imjingang, coming down from North Korea. The bridge also has a nickname which is the “Cow Bridge”. The founder of Hyundai whose name was Jung Juyoung crossed this bridge and went to North Korea back in 1998 with precisely 1,001 cows. Since then, we have been calling it the cow bridge. Of course all the cows he took with him were part of humanitarian donations for North Korean people.
If you look outside, you can see some soldiers wearing a green color camouflage uniform. They are South Korean soldiers or ROK soldiers currently serving their mandatory military service for 21 months. All men in South Korea have to serve the military mandatorily for 21 months, but it’s not required for women. I also served for 26 months a long time ago right after college, and it was longer than right now. Military service is getting shorter and shorter. However, the situation is a lot more terrible in North Korea. First of all, it’s mandatory for both genders, men and women. Men have to serve for 10 years while women serve for 7 years, but this is just for normal kinds of soldiers. For a special forces like Marine Corps and Airborne, they have to serve for 13 years.
Republic of Korea and United States Forces Korea soldiers conduct the United Nations Command DMZ Orientation Program tours of the JSA and surrounding areas.
Camp Bonifas is the command post of the United Nions Forces inside of Panmoonjeom.At this location, solders who are in charge, boards the bus and examines your attire and identification once more.At the JSA national security center inside of the Camp Bonifas, they give a briefing about the Panmoonjeom visitation.There is a golf course called Par 3 One Hall Gold Course made of artificial turf inside of the Camp Bonifas. It is called ‘the most dangerous golf course’ because surrounded around the three sides of the club are minefields.
Panmunjeom is located in the demilitarized zone, 50 km north from Seoul and 10 km east from the city of Gaeseong.
This area is most notably known for the peace talks that were held here on October 25, 1951 and was designated as the Joint Security Area on July 27, 1953 when the armistice agreement was signed.
Once used as a management office, Panmunjeom has been used as now a conference room since the Red Cross held an international conference here on September 20, 1971. It is the only place where North Koreans and South Koreans can come in contact on a daily basis and make efforts towards the peace of Korea.
Buffering hostilities from the north and south, the heavily guarded premises of Panmunjeom are located in the middle of the demilitarized zone (DMZ) and remain reserved strictly for political engagements. Providing the only road connecting the two countries, it is here where the historical signing of the Armistice Agreement took place between Communist forces and the United Nations Command (UNC) in 1953 after a succession of peace talks that lasted more than two years.
The current building was constructed on July 9, 1998.
It was built by the founder of Hyundai to host reunions of families separated during the Korean War. However, since North Korea has worried about sending their people through the division line of JSA, the house has been used only for Red Cross staffs and the liaison officers of South Korea.
The armistice agreement of 1953 provided the establishment of the Military Armistice Commission (MAC), an agency to supervise implementation of the truce terms. A conference row was built to hold meetings of MAC representatives from the United Nations Command (UNC) and the North Korean People’s Army (KPA).
The conference row consists of seven buildings set squarely on the Military Demarcation Line (MDL). The line is marked on the ground between the buildings on conference row by several 17”×5” concrete slabs.
The three blue buildings are managed by UNC, and four gray buildings, by KPA. The central blue building is the MAC Conference Room, where talks take place between both sides. The MAC room has a line, which bisects the center of a conference table in the middle of the room
First, you will stand right in front of the conference row to take photos of North Korean soldiers, who are posted in front of their visitor center. Then, you will be escorted into the MAC Conference Room, where you can cross the division line even though you are prohibited from opening the door toward north direction.
GP 3 is the nearest spot you can watch and picture the scenery of North Korea, surrounding you at three sides
The guard post is located on a small mound, standing out into the north territories. It commands a fine view of many important facilities of North Korea. Straight ahead of you about one Kilometer away, you will glance the scary “Peace Museum” of North Korea, where they are displaying the two axes used to murder two American officers.
If you look at your right hand side, there is a guard post of KPA where they are checking and filming your every movement. You can return their favor by picturing them back, but you are not supposed to point them with your fingers or to make any gesture which can be interpreted as a signal of another war.
If you turn your head to the left, you can find UN Guard Post Four, which is only twenty meters ahead of the focal point of Axe Murder Incident. If you look far away along the direction, there are the propaganda village, Gaesung Industrial Complex, and a radio signal jamming tower.
The Bridge of No Return is a small bridge where POWs were exchanged after the war.
There were two operations for it: Operation Little Switch as a test case for prisoner repatriation and Operation Big Switch for a general exchange of prisoners.
All the POWs were carried to the both ends of the bridge and they were given a choice. Once they chose to cross over the road, they could not make a turning back, hence the name “Bridge of No Return”. About thirteen thousand UNC prisoners returned to their countries, and about eighty nine thousand KPA and Chinese prisoners returned to their communist nations.
Imjingak is the most representative place that symbolizes Koreans’ desire to reunify two Koreas.
It is a small theme park with rides at one side and barbed wire fences at the other side, making it a bizarre place. The park is a place to pray for the reunification of Korea. There are two historical things in the park site. One of them is a bridge called Freedom Bridge. It is an eighty three meter long wooden bridge used by 13,000 POWs who came down to South Korea seeking freedom. Another one is an original steam locomotive smokestack from the Korean War. The train was used by the South Army before being destroyed in 1950. It was deserted for 55 years with 1,020 bullet marks.
To be announced
Before we finish this tour in Seoul, as the very last part of this tour, we will make a brief stop at a place where you can get the national stone of Korea. It is among the most famous local products produced from Korea. It’s a purple color precious stone as well as birthstone of February. It’s made from granite and it takes millions of years to change from granite to this particular kind of stone. Can anybody take a guess what this is? This is amethyst. Back in Seoul, we will stop by an amethyst factory which owns an amethyst mine. There, you can get a decent quality Korean amethyst at factory price which is almost half of the regular price. It could be a very good surprising gift for your loved ones especially for female, like your wife, daughter, or mother, if you have any. We will stay there for about 20 minutes and we will visit the very last place of downtown in Seoul called Itaewon where all of you will be dropped off.
To be determined